Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Garfield New Orleans Field Trip Issue Heats Up

Just back from student press conference - I'll report on that later.  I so appreciate their caring for their teacher who sounds like a wonderful teacher and mentor.  But they clearly do not understand the issues for other SPS parents and taxpayers.  They don't believe that what happened rises to the issue of dismissal.

One of the students' main issues is the "outdated" rules about same sex students in the room.  They said the boy in question was gay and did not/was not wanted in his assigned room.  

One mom at the press conference, not a parent of a current GHS student, said it was a "witchhunt" against the teacher.  When I mentioned that it is alleged there was drinking going on among the chaperones, she said, "We're all human, aren't we?"

I'm not sure that some parents and students understand the ramifications of looking the other way.  That's a pretty slippery slope. 

The district has put out a press release (see below) and there is a media event at SPS at 2 pm that I will attend.

I am disabling comments for now.
 SPS Communications:

SEATTLE – A Garfield High School teacher was placed on paid administrative leave to investigate allegations that numerous Seattle School Board policies, procedures, and protocols were violated on a school sponsored field trip to New Orleans in March 2015.

Safety is a top priority. A basic expectation for students and parents is that district staff will ensure the safety of students while under their care, in and out of the classroom. Multiples trainings have been provided district-wide to staff and volunteers, of all policies, procedures and protocols to ensure student safety. They all must sign documentation confirming they fully understand these.  A tailored training was provided for Garfield staff at the start of the 2014-15 school year to reinforce expected field trip rules and set expectations.  

Seattle Public Schools field trip policies, protocols and procedures are established to protect students. They include:

·         GHS field trip behavior contracts that all student’s sign, which include language prohibiting boys and girls from being in each others’ hotel rooms. (Garfield Field Trip Behavior Contract, Seattle Public Schools Guidelines for Volunteer Chaperones Overnight Field Trips).
·         “Drug-Free Schools Community and Workplace” policy which bars the use and consumption of drugs and alcohol by staff (District Board Policy No. 5201, District Board Policy No. 5006, “Acts of Unprofessional Conduct, Washington State code of Professional Conduct for Teachers WAC-181-87-055, WAC 180-44-060).
·         Agreements signed by students acknowledging a curfew, requiring them to remain in their rooms from 10:30 p.m. until sunrise (Seattle Public Schools Field Trip Behavior and Expectations Agreement, Garfield Field Trip Behavior Contract).
·         Random room checks to be conducted after curfew (Seattle Public Schools Guidelines for Volunteer Chaperones Overnight Field Trips).
·         Protocols to report rule violations during and after field trips (Administrative Procedure 2320 C “Field Trips and Excursions: Overnight Field Trip Procedures).
·         Guidelines are set and signed off on, by volunteer chaperones on overnight field trips including prohibiting alcohol consumption (Seattle Public Schools Guidelines for Volunteer Chaperones Overnight Field Trips, Administrative Procedure 2320 C “Field Trips and Excursions: Overnight Field Trip Procedures).

The District hired an investigator, a retired former Assistant U.S. Attorney, to conduct the investigation.  The investigation found that policies, procedures, and protocols were violated by staff and chaperones. 

During this field trip a male student is alleged to have groped two female students at night in a New Orleans hotel room and on a bus, students observed their teacher and chaperones drinking alcohol, a teacher and chaperones drank alcohol at night on other occasions, a chaperone was visibly incapacitated and had to be helped back to their hotel room one night, and a chaperone was alleged to have engaged in inappropriate contact with a student while under the influence of alcohol. 

The superintendent is considering the appropriate corrective action to take against the teacher, which may include the termination of her teaching contract.